Games 3 & 4 a Roller Coaster Ride Worth the Cost of Admission.
The Bobcats returned home from Drayton Valley for games 3 & 4 of their North Division playoff series down 2-0 pressure on and stakes high. Going into the playoffs it was clear that this would be a hard fought series the 4th and 5th place teams had played each other very well all season long splitting the season series. The ‘Cats would need more of the same to keep hope alive in the best of seven series.
Game three started off on the right foot. A goal midway through the first by Jayven Leslie would start the scoring and engage one of the largest crowds they’ve seen this season. Goals at the 13 and 16 minute mark would however have the Thunder leading after one.
Fans in the second period were treated to quite a spectacle. The period opened with three goals in the first 4 minutes by the visiting side. For a moment the ruckus crowd had quieted. Down 5-1 things looked very bleak for the home side in a critical game three. Immediately after the 5th goal Leslie was a factor again drawing a penalty before the puck would drop again, the ‘Cats had a chance and they took it. A minute into the power play Chase Visser would capitalize on the man advantage and make the Civic Centre return to life. Still 5-2 was a tall order and would demand something special to correct – the Bobcats were up to the challenge.
Mack Steward would score twice and Hoogendorn would tie the game at the 13 minute mark and just like that the teams were square again with the Civic Centre shaking to its footings and the Thunder on their heels.
Early in period three Akl would score to give the lead to the home side for the second time in the game roughly 28 minutes (of game time) and 9 goals after Drayton had tied it back in the first. The home team would add two more to complete the comeback win in a decisive fashion.
With the effort and emotion that goes into a win like that one had to worry what the Bobcats would have left in the tank for game 4. Clearly momentum on their side, Fans were expected to flock to the CCC to see what would happen in the critical match. 1006 fans filled the seats on Wednesday night, the largest crowd of the season and they made themselves heard. Something Nigel Dube talked about, “The Civic has been amazing all year, February went to a new level and then these first two home playoff games found another gear. Our rally on Tuesday was strongly motivated by the fans”.
Tuesday the ‘Cats were able to rattle the Thunder and cause mistakes. Wednesday the visitors were more composed. More disciplined and would start out with two goals early in the first. The ‘Cats seemed unphased as they continued their push. Memories didn’t need to be long to know that they’ve faced worse odds. Into period 2 another early goal would have the Thunder leading 3-0 and would result in Freddie Halyk stepping into the net in relief.
As will happen the goalie change created a spark and two minutes later Mack Steward would score his 3rd of the series and give life back to the arena. Manvilles Jordan Borysiuk would add another to get the home side within a single goal five minutes later, and again the building would vibrate.
The Thunder would score 3 minutes later to regain the two goal lead but the home side would not relent playing through the challenge. They continued to drive at the net to create opportunities but the defense of the Thunder came out on top after adding an empty net goal late in period three taking a hold of the series at three games to one.
Dube when asked about the series to this point was pleased with the effort of his squad, “It’s been a battle all season (against Drayton) and its continued into the playoffs. We chased the game from early and pushed until the final buzzer”.
The Cat’s truly have been the aggressor on the series. Any of the three losses could have gone their way. One could argue that the Bobcats have been the better team but bounces and breaks have not gone their way. Through the four game set the ‘Cats have outshot their opponent 191-156. They’ve dictated the physical game as well. The Bobcats will return to Drayton Valley Friday night playing desperate hockey. A win means new life and a return to the Border City, a loss…. well we won’t bring that up.
Game 5 action from Drayton Valley will be on Hockey TV. Potential game 6 will return to the Civic Centre Sunday night at 7:00.